GB News: Michelle Donelan urges Ofcom to investigate channel after Laurence Fox and Dan Wootton suspensions
A government minister has urged broadcasting regulator Ofcom to look into GB News after the controversy around "unacceptable and disgraceful" comments made by Laurence Fox on Dan Wootton's evening show saw the pair suspended from the channel.
Fox was roundly criticised by many after he said of Ava Evans, a female political journalist: "Who would want to shag that?"
The actor-turned-politician made the remarks live on air during a segment of Wootton's show, with the host also being criticised after he appeared to smile and laugh along as Fox spoke about Evans in a derogatory manner.
GB News confirmed that both men had been suspended from appearing on the channel while an investigation was ongoing. Ofcom also confirmed that it had received numerous complaints over the incident, adding: "We are assessing these complaints against our broadcast rules and will publish the outcome as quickly as possible."
Technology secretary Michelle Dolelan has urged the regulator to look thoroughly into the matter and GB News's handling of the situation. She described Fox and Wootton as behaving in an “unacceptable and disgraceful way” live on air.
Speaking to Sky News, Donelan said: “Ofcom really do need to look at this. I was quite shocked and taken aback by the level of the comments made and the response of Dan on that show.
“It was completely unacceptable. I’m glad that GB News took decisive action and suspended both of them quickly today, but there needs to be the next stage now and Ofcom really needs to be looking at this.”
However, Donelan she that she would not "boycott" the channel, which hosts multiple shows hosted by her Tory colleagues in the House of Commons. Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ester McVey are among the sitting MPs who currently present current affairs programmes for the channel, a matter which has stirred debate around impartiality standards.
The Technology secretary added that the incident involving Fox and Wootton was an "isolated" one for GB News. She added that the controversy stirred up by Fox's was not a "symptom of a broader problem at all” but said that bosses at the channel needed to learn "big lessons" from the situation.
It comes as Tory MP Caroline Noakes, chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, also called on Ofcom to investigate the “blatantly misogynistic, outdated, hideous attitudes". She told BBC Newsnight: “I think there is a really serious case to answer and I hope that Ofcom can conclude its investigations as swiftly as possible."
GB News presenter Mark Dolan stepped in to replace Wootton during his 9pm regular slot. He told viewers of the show: “Whether Laurence should stay on air is not my decision and Dan’s absence tonight is also beyond my control.
"There is an investigation ongoing, but the comments made by Laurence in my view were sexist, misogynistic and, unusually, in the frenzied climate of the so-called culture wars, have been condemned across the political spectrum from left and right.”